Tell me more about oxytocin

“The parallels between making love and giving birth are clear, not only in terms of passion and love, but also because we need essentially the same conditions for both experiences: privacy and safety.”

Sarah Buckley

Oxytocin is our hormone which aids growth, healing, and storage of nourishment.  We produce it when we dine with friends, when we make love and when we feel loved and nurtured.  It reduces stress hormone levels, calms our emotions, lowers our blood pressure and heart rate and increases our ability to cope with pain.

Oxytocin will also contract your uterus and let down your milk and it plays a key role in your instinctive maternal behaviour, helping you to bond and care for your baby instinctively rather than by shear effort of will.   Oxytocin travels freely between blood and brain, working on all areas together and in harmony.  It is not the same with artificial oxytocin (syntocinon or pitocin) which acts on your uterus only, and not on your brain or your other body systems, so you get intense contractions without the benefit of any of the calming systems or your body’s own pain-relief mechanism.

A doula’s job is to enhance oxytocin production in the mother, in her partner and in anyone else who may be present.  If fear and anxiety are reduced, oxytocin levels are high and endorphins (your body’s own painkillers) build to match the intensity of the sensations.  With the right environment and good support, the chances are that you will rise spectacularly to the challenge of giving birth.  Oxytocin is shy though, and it is easily frightened away by loud noises, things that startle you, unfamiliar sounds and smells and by too much conversation or having to think in a logical or rational way.

For more information on the role of oxytocin and how to help yourself to a peaceful, love-filled and easier birth, have a look at the work of Michel OdentKerstin Uvnäs-Moberg or Sarah Buckley.